tv [untitled] February 19, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EST
howard thurman, as we tour the national civil rights museum, built on the site where martin luther king jr. was assassina d assassinated. at 10:30 from waterbury connecticut, they teach a class on the "n" world with a focus on "uncle tom's cabin" and "huckleberry finn." this is american tv on c-span 3. next abraham lincoln harold holzer. as part of the talk, mr. holzer examines the reasoning behind imprisonment of newspaper editors during the civil war and suspension of habeas corpus. this was co-hosted by historical society of the courts of the state of new york and new york state archives' partnership trust. it's an hour and a half.
>> i've never spoken to a crowd of so many attorneys in my entire life. there are several that i want to acknowledge. my daughter, meg, who is an attorney is here today. inspector state general ellen biben is here today. my old friend judge gene nardelli is here. we could go on forever. it's wonderful to see all of you. one other person i want to mention because the subject for this weekend is freedom of the press, as you know. someone in this room who is actually a living hero of the fight for freedom of the press. formally of "the new york
times." i just want to introduce -- i know you all know her and the case, judith miller. i want to start with the end of the war, not the beginning with lincoln's second inaugural address. speech was only nine minutes long but i would venture to say that it ended so memorably that even after that brief time lapse, people had forgotten the beginning of the speech. and at the beginning of that address, lincoln launched into a recollection of his first inaugural appearance. not without a little malice of his own. at least towards some. this is what he said. while inaugural address was being delivered four years ago, devoted all together to saving the union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking
to destroy it without war. both depricated war. one rather would accept war than let it perish and the war came. in a way that recollection sets the stage for tonight's discussion because it sheds light on lincoln's thinking both at the beginning of the conflict and as he looked toward its conclusion. and in his mind, washington in 1861 was literally crawling with what he called insurgent agents. committed to destroying the union. his responsibility then and his justification letter is anything he did to help the nation survive was justified. i know chief judge kay and chief justice willman will be amused
by this story. when roger tawny asking in his capacity as federal circuit judge challenged lincoln's suspension of the writ early in the war, the judge ignored him but had the chief arrested for interfering. during the war, the court did not attempt to judge lincoln on the matter of arbitrary arrest but that's not the story for tonight, although clearly lincoln's use of the war power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus is relevant. in his view, i'll quote him again, as the provision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency, that is the part of the constitution that says it may be suspended, it cannot be believed that the framers intended that the danger should run its course until congress could be called together the very assembling of which might
be prevented by rebellion itself. specific topic for tonight, of course, is the less ambiguous guarantee in the first amendment. congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or press. again, lincoln determined that in a case of rebellion, especially while congress was in recess, contingency trumped ever the bill of rights. he did call congress back into session but not for four months. and not before the executive branch did abridge freedom of the press and as some have maintained, without constitutional authority. let's look frankly at the record and preparing for this talk and preparing for a book i'm doing on lincoln and the press, i must say, i've been staggered by the numbers that i've been dealing with. as many as 300 separate recorded incidents that included the
following -- banning papers from the u.s. mails. interrupting the flow of telegraphic news. arresting and imprisoning editors. and reporters. closing and ransacking newspaper offices. seizing and destroying equipment and success spending publication. many of these occurred where the union was in control and where the court still functioned. as far north as maine. can't get much farther north than main. in areas loyal to the confederacy teetering between southern or northern control or supervised by war governors or military governors, we can add the following to the litany. participating in or failing to prevent mob attacks against newspaper offices. official kren shcensorship, the banishment of some, the
humiliating punishment of others. if anything, i think historians have not made a full audit. they focused on two or three landmark cases which are often viewed as mistakes often corrected. most scholars have assessed the curtailment of press liberty during the civil war as surprisingly infrequent and usually justified. i'm going to suggest tonight the effort was far more widespread than we've understood. though it did remain always supremely disorganized and ad hoc. and you'll decide on the justification yourself. i'm going to propose the repression was supported by not only most of the union public, the loyal union public, although in constitutional issue that doesn't matter so much. but also by many newspaper editors as well. i've been surprised by that. finally i will argue when lincoln had a chance to apply
total press censorship, he didn't. let me offer evidence of the nonlegal variety because it's important. to understand the conditions under which the press and the president operated requires giving you a big leap of historical understanding. you have to imagine yourself in the 19th century when the press culture was totally different than what it is. in the lincoln era, they were affiliated directly with the republican or democratic party. they published openly partisan news. they were not newspaper exactly. they were propaganda sheets. within this culture, violence and suppression against the press became tragically common place. in 1837, for example, a mob in the town of alton, illinois, tossed an abolition it's newspaper prints press into the mississippi river.
when the editor tried to save his property, they killed him. the murderoused a young illinois politician named abraham lincoln to speak out against what he called mobacratic spirit. reverence for the law, he said, should become the political religion of the nation. it didn't. by 1850s most american cities had two newspapers, one each publishing increasingly inflammatory warnings about abolitionist plots on one hand and on the other, southern schemes to separate and divide the union and make slavery perpetual. lincoln was immersed in this world. he was one of many politicians who not only befriended sympathetic editors, he hung out
at newspaper offices, he had his speeches typeset by local loyal press. he ghost wrote editorials for the local press and he regarded opposition ones as he put it once as villainous. public malice and not public good possesses them entirely. malice was a long time coming. lincoln alone was not alone in this view. democratic politicians felt the same way about republican editors. now, importantly, press loyalties were fueled not only by party discipline but by expectations of reward. and it wasn't just political advertising. once in office, politicians routinely repaid loyal editors with coveted jobs. even hon eest abe. the enter betweening of press
and politics was a tradition not an exception. even more alien to our modern concept, 19th century politicians were often publishers and publishers were often politicians. three members of lincoln's first cabinet had been newspaper publishers. the speaker of the house owned the republic indiana. tribune's horace greeley was a one-time republican congressman and aspired to "the new york times" was founded by the speaker of the state assembly. think about that. when i suggested at a recent book party at "new york times," no less, this was a bit like shelly silver owning today's "new york times," our host,
author salzburger jr. shouted out from the back, the party's over. it's alien to our culture today. here's another example. the most anti-lincoln, most racist paper in new york was "the daily news" no relation to today's "daily news." if lincoln became president it warned in a vial article in 1860 we should find negros among us. who was the editor of "the daily news"? the brother of the mayor of new york city. think about that. mayor bloomberg's sister, serves as commissioner of protocol, instead had beaten out jill has been abramson as editor of "the new york times." it's foreign to the public and
press today. when lincoln sought re-election, his campaign manager was the publisher of "the new york times," henry raymond. as that sounds unusual, the publisher of "the new york world" was national chairman for lincoln's opponent for presidency. press competition and outspokenness only intensify exponentially with war. lincoln told a group of congress men freedom of the press was necessary. he changed his mind. he changed his mind1861, a period of trauma, a period of is survival to the free government when traditional opponents became enemies and criticism was seen by many as sedition. lincoln concluded that he must save the whole constitution even if it meant temporarily sacrificing specific guarantees.
one of the first to feel the institutions was the press. the union banned the use of the mails and commercial export with all of the rebellious states and assumed control of the nation's telegraph system. the new rules applied to manufacturers and exporters of all sorts of products including newspapers. one of the first test cases involved a philadelphia publication called "the christian observer" who had a rather tenuous affiliation with episcopal church which said we have nothing to do with this favor and religious affiliation did nothing to mask its
pro-sessation and pro-slooifry bias. after bull run the paper ran a story containing to contain authentic letter. which remained the only route for northern trips to arrive to the defense of washington. on august 22nd, a month after bull run, federal forces invaded the offices of the christian observer where they clearly encountered less resistance than they had at bull run and confiscated type and evicted the staff. after appealing to lincoln after he was an old man that promoted
harmony, the editor fled to richmond and established his paper as a pro slavery as editor. freedom of the press i have believed was one of the works of national safety. but lincoln is here, although his hand is not directly on this, this is done by a variety of departments as i'll get to it, adopted the argument that the national safety required journalist -- journals like "the christian observer" to be shut down. a federal grand jury in new york's southern district sent a presentment to the court asking whether certain newspapers here, and i quote in the frequent practice of encouraging arms in federal government overstepped freedom of the press and now deserve what they call employment of force to overcome them.
some of those names sound familiar to some of us. the daily news editorialized -- if the national government attempted to subvert the states, every citizen was absolved biz his sovereign, and i think by that he did not mean the president, from the obligation to obey. the postmaster general banned all five newspapers from the mails. when the daily news tried to subvert the order by sending copies on board a train, the government placed agents on board trains to confiscate them. this was serious business. subscribers cut off, the news shut down. and its editor, aforementioned brother of the mayor, turned to novel writing. facing similar ruin, the brooklyn eagle reformed its editorial policy and suddenly for obvious commercial reasons became major supporters of the
union. unwilling to do either the editor of the freeman's journal soldiered on and was arrested, this time on the order of the secretary of state. and imprisoned for 11 weeks. in a prison in the new york harbor. however extreme these actions sound to us today, keep in mind, they chilled very few observers at the time. a grand jury in new jersey thinking this was a swell idea promptly identified five of their own newspapers to be shut down. mobs attacked pro-session newspaper in bridge port, ohio, in bangor, ugly incidents all directed at what people of the day clearly regarded not as loyal opposition but as fifth column anti-unionism. war department -- a third agency involved then contributed an order declaring tighter control
of the telegraph office because intelligence was being given directly or indirectly to the enemy through the use of this new technology. as we talk about different press culture, very contentious press culture, there was this new technology that had the same threatening impact on people as julian assange had on the 20th century of the idea of publishing anything any time. the war department placed 154 newspapers on an informal but chilling watch list. as early as april, telegraph wires had fallen completely under military control. but at the same time, only one or two censors worked the telegraph office. it was a warning but it was never completely enforced. and newspapers in the field, journalists in the field, always had the option of getting on
board a train with a dispatch or sending a horseback rider as a runner. they kov the war perhaps more in iraq and afghanistan. pictures of casualties were never forbidden, just the encouragement to rebel and join. if other newspapers felt a bond with their repressed brotheren, they seldom expressed solidarity. democrats remained completely silent or most. perhaps fearful of objection -- of objecting out loud. just weeks after vowing it would not applaud the administration, "the new york times" branded the journalist of exciting a riot in our streets and apologizing for the mob. no rite of the press, "the
times" insisted, should shield it from the penalty of a crime against society. this was "the times" speaking. "the chicago tribune" questioned the very concept of what they called absolute freedom of the press because in society speech is always limited by prevailing conditions. until the war is over, we must be content to accept the altered continues of the times and the country may demand as a requisite for national salvation. calling "the daily news" that most pestulant, they declared every newspaper approved of sessation. "the times" henry raymond was surprised, as he put it, only that the administration has so long foreborn to defend itself against fa nat cal crusade of the papers published in loyal states.
in states where no such loyalty reined, lincoln got 53% of the vote in new york and only 2% or. % in maryland. the sue expressibpoena regs was draconian. lincoln ordered the military before bull run to arrest and detain without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law such individuals as might be deemed to the public safety. that sounds ambiguous and threatening phraseology. but it certainly included the press. when the baltimore exchange editorialalized a war of the south, but the war of the north was a war of the people carried out by political schemers, military authorities shut down the paper. arrested the editor, whose name was francis scott key howard. not by accident, the irony here is that he was the grandson of
the author of "the national anthem" thrown into ft. lafayette prison. was he guilty of anything more than expressing himself? his surviving files included secret resolutions pledging to support the confederacy and rebellion. marshal suppressed four of the other journals. asked to justify this by congress, lincoln said, are all the laws but one to go unexecuted and the government itself go to pieces less that one be violated? accusing rebels of what he called an insidious debotching of the public mind, a phrase that reveals how deeply he felt about harnessing what he called public sentiment. he said that he could perform this duty or surrender the entire existence of government. i purposely dwelled on these examples from 1861. probably because they're less
known has the later incidents but also because they definitely set precedence for what followed. had the country -- had editors risen up to protest, it might have been a slightly different story. now, i'm not meaning to ascribe blame if it's warranted to the victims. i do urge everyone, though, to keep the context in mind. to look at this phenomenon through the extraordinary moment of revolution and danger that perhaps mitigated it. not through the dubious lens of hindsight. and at the time the other branches of government didn't interfere. when congress came back into session, it ratified suspension of great writ. the supreme court remained silent. in 1862 the house judiciary committee began an inquiry into whether the suppression of the telegraph had been used to restrain what it called
wholesome political criticism. they heard from many witnesses including journalists who testified that some -- some of them testified they indeed feeder using severe language against the administration. but the committee ultimately concluded that legitimate political personal and news, if inhibited, still free government -- free government -- a government free from interference may not always be consistent with the necessities of the government in time of war.this was ambiguous enough t encourage the house to drop the entire matter. the telegraph censors as hapless and small in number as they were, were left in charge under the egous of the state department or war department without much oversight. they added to the list, anything meant to discourage volunteering, discouraging allowing themselves to be
drafted or allowing the drafts to go guard, as we know they didn't always. including in new york city. the new york evening express repudiated it in a scathing editorial, we don't know what liberty has allowed free white men to discussion the proclamation. we may be locked up for all this free speech and free discussion but we lend no sanction to any negro equality. this tirade prompted one correspondent to ask the secretary of state, how is rebellion to be crushed while such insulting traitorous papers are allowed to be circulated. tens of thousands in new york stand ready to enter the principling and break the heads of the editors and only restrained by its unlawfulness and waiting for a weak government to do the needful to this them. no action was taken here.
but it's fascinating to read the letters that came into the lincoln administration supporting the notion of further crackdowns. 1863 the issue came to a head in dayton, ohio, where a union general, not the most effective in history, arrested a former congressman and newspaper owner, of course, for speaking out against the draft and had him imprisoned and tried by a military commission. he was found guilty but was not imprisoned. he was banished to the confederacy. local newspapers that protested like the columbus crisis paid a heavy price. first a mob tried to burn down the offices. the editor later proposed nominating this fellow for governor of ohio, a general banned the newspaper from the mails. he ran for governor, a democrat.
was devastated in the election. but the crisis continued its own campaign for free speech, what it called free speech, ultimately this editor was cited for conspiracy. he died a broken man before he could be brought to his trial. he was not the only editor outraged by the case. new york democrats held a famous mass meeting in albany and condemned the president. defending his actions against what he branded an effort by insurgents, he loved that word, to destroy the union, the constitution and the law ail together, whether on the battlefield or on the news room, lincoln rejected the idea of a government, as he put it, restrained by the same constitution and law from arresting their progress. their sympathizers pervaded all parts of the government and all communities of the people, undercover of liberty of speech, liberty of the press and habeas
corpus. they plan to keep a most efficient core of supplies, aiders and abetters of their cause in a thousand ways. to lincoln, these disloyal editors were akin to spies and informers. albany congress man corning called the doctrine a monstrous harasscy, subversive of liberty and law, and attending to the establishment of despitism. a few days later when the chicago times, a democratic paper, the general surprised everybody by ordering troops in chicago to shut down the chicago times and imprison its gun-toting editor, wilbur story, for repeated expression of disloyalty and incendiary statements. this act of